Advance Review Of Pretty Violent # 1: A Superhero Comedy Delivering The Gags

by Richard Bruton

Funny comics are always a tough sell, but with Pretty Violent, writer/artist Derek Hunter and co-writer Jason Young have a first issue of gross-out superhero comedy that made me laugh and made me want more. Now, if that’s not a damn good start, I don’t know what is.

So, Pretty Violent is exactly what it says and shows on that cover. It’s a superhero comedy with blood and gore and swears. So, before we go any further… warning – SWEARS…

To give you some idea of what they’re selling to you, here’s the Image Comics PR…

Gamma Rae wants to be a superhero, and why shouldn’t she!? She’s been strong since she was a baby. The only problem is, all her siblings are notorious hero-murdering criminals! Join artist Derek Hunter and writer Jason Young for this all-new ongoing, gore-filled, laugh-out-loud comedy for mature readers that explores one girl’s journey through the rift between personal and family identity.

Yep, that’s about it. Except we don’t get any of the family stuff here, not a bit of it until the very last page (and yes, spoilers… except when it’s in the press release it’s not really a spoiler, is it?)

Instead, it’s a simple 24-page comic that throws young Gamma Rae into the fight, as she decides that she’s going to be a hero. So she dives into the fight and rescues a sweet kid from the clutches of Hulktress.

Except, Hulktress isn’t the bad guy, the kid is.

And here’s where Pretty Violent starts to twist and subvert the superhero genre it’s mercilessly satirising. It’s playing on the whole hero fights hero before they realise they were wrong and team up to battle and defeat the shared foe sort of thing we’ve all grown up with for years and years. But, instead of teaming up, things go south, big time… kid turns out to be Madmanimal and Hulktress ends up as a mess of blood and bone…

And there you are, that gives you exactly the tone we’re hitting on here. It’s sweary and it’s nasty, full of blood, gore, body bits flying all over the place. If you’re old enough think of it as someone channelling Garth EnnisThe Pro, bits of Martin & Hewlett‘s Tank Girl, a dash of Mills & O’Neill‘s  Marshal Law, and all deliberately contrasting that blood and guts funny with the very obviously cartoon-style art, where I’m seeing things like Kyle Baker‘s Plastic Man amongst many more, all to make its point.

And that point? Well, it’s pretty simple… superhero comics are, at their heart, pretty dumb, so Pretty Violent takes that and plays it to full excess and plays all that for laughs. Which is why we have continual chatter throughout this first issue of Gamma Rae finding herself continually critiqued by the public, always there to deliver immediate judgment on her latest attempts to do the hero thing.

Having said that, Gamma Rae seems destined or determined to screw up at every turn, whether it’s the mess of Hulktress or the fight with the hero Mechanix. She’s having a bad, bad day. And it’s the end of this bad, bad day that puts her in place to reconnect with her family, the family you’ve already been told about in that Image Comics PR.

So, Pretty Violent is a gross-out superhero comedy comic. And you’ve seen the art, read the PR, know the idea. It’s a superhero thing, it’s certainly got all the gross-out thing going on. But, as a comedy… is it funny? Well, here I’m going to go with the 6 laugh test, something I steal whole-heartedly from Mark Kermode, my favourite film critic.

Pretty Violent covers the 6 laugh test quickly and easily. It’s gross-out comedy certainly, but it definitely manages both the gross-out AND the comedy. And if you want a simple example of that one, here are Hunter and Young setting up a gag and delivering the punchline with great timing and great style…

Part 1… setup… Gamma Rae really wanting to do the right thing again…

Part 2… develop the gag… she’s on fire, she’s got the power, she knows who the bad guy is and she’s damn well going to kick his ass…

Part 3… deliver the punchline… oh, FFS…

And that’s it. That’s the moment you should have laughed. I know I did. Hunter and Young do this again and again in this first issue of Pretty Violent. It’s a comic full of this sort of gag, it’s a comic full of gross-out comedy for sure, but it’s also a comic that knows just how to set up and deliver a bloody funny gag. If you don’t like gross comedy, it’s really not going to be your thing. But, if you want to see a couple of comic creators playing around with the superhero genre, poking holes in the ridiculousness, and playing around with the obvious silliness, Pretty Violent is well worth a look.

However, I do wonder about one thing. I’m questioning just how they’re going to keep it going, especially as it’s an ongoing title as far as the press I’ve seen makes out. This first issue is a really wll done gag comic, but I’m not sure that’s going to be enough to go month after month after month without feeling like it’s just going over the same gags.

As with so many comedy comics, Pretty Violent is going to have to tread a very fine line that’s so difficult to get right. Basically, If you try to add in a storyline to deliver longevity, then you could find the comedy gets lost and if you don’t add in a storyline, then doing the same sort of gag over and over just runs the risk of getting tired real quickly.

It’s difficult thing, a delicate balance. Fingers crossed they can do it.

However, based on this first issue, it’s an interesting problem that I want to see them try and work out and I’ll hopefully be laughing along next month, the month after that, and months to come. Funny comics are thin on the ground, I’d love to see this one work.

Pretty Violent #1, written by Derek Hunter and Jason Young, art by Derek Hunter, published 21 August by Image Comics.

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